Group Teen Violence Shocks as Minors Charged With Rape, Murder, Assault

"They get rid of everyday decision making and judgment," she said. "It's like they get caught up in the emotion."

As for the juveniles charged as adults, Kaslow said that their age shouldn't preclude them from being punished as allowable by state law.

"If you behave in a way that's so horrible, there need to be significant consequences to that," she said. "And other kids need to see you don't get glorified by this."

Melissa Sickmund, chief of systems research for the National Center for Juvenile Justice, told ABCNews.com today, "In general, I would say more than adults, children do tend to do things in groups."

Sickmund said that it's difficult to track the number of teens who are charged as adults because most courts only record data when there is a waiver from juvenile court, not when prosecutors send the juveniles straight to criminal court as in the case of the three Florida teens.

In general, youth violence, which peaked in the U.S. in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, is way down, she said. Sickmund said heavy media coverage of sensational and disturbing crimes tends to distort the public's view of how violent teenagers really are.

"You could say today that kids are even less violent than their parents," she said.

Valdepena said the beating death of Bird was the first crime of its kind in Wylie, a town of about 40,000 northeast of Dallas.

"I think it was shocking to the entire community," she said, adding that the can usually count on petty teen crime such as vandalism or the stealing of Christmas decorations. "But this was obviously way above stupid."

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